Friday, May 27, 2005

Today, I are a college student ... again

Yesterday Aly and I went to the New England Institute of Art to look at the campus and see what's going on. We met with Curt Karl and I officially put my signature on an agreement to go the school. I am really excited, but at the same time, I'm really nervous too. I know I'm going to do well, but I haven't taken an exam in over nine years, I haven't done a project in longer and studying has been a long-ago memory.

But, I think that this program (web and graphic design) is something that I'm going to love doing. It's weird, yesterday was the first day of my new (work) life. In five, ten, twenty years, I can look back and say, on May 26, 2005 at about 7:50 pm, I made the conscious decision to get into graphic design and use my creative skills in a way that will hopefully make me very happy and enjoy work again.

Aly has been really supportive through this decision, and I don't think I could've done it without her.

Tomorrow, we have a 9 am flight to Atlanta, Georgia. This weekend, the entire Manasso brood is getting together for the Christening of Aly's neice Samantha. It should be a lot of fun. We rented a hotel room for the first two nights, and by the time Monday rolls around, and everyone has cleared out of there, Aly and I are going to stay with her brother's family.

I'm looking forward to going to Distant Replays and picking up a hat and maybe a shirt. We're also going to spend some time at the hotel pool, it's supposed to be 86 down there. Up here, it has rained for literally 10 straight days and today was the first day in about a week where the temperature was above 50 degrees. This weather has out-and-out sucked. Very depressing.

I was going to write about the Sox tonight, but they're getting their asses kicked in the Bronx and I just don't have the energy to do a good piece on them. I know that they just won the World Series last year, and we have to give them a mulligan on this year and that it's only May, but the last four games have been text book games in shitty baseball. Bad pitching, crappy hitting, shitty defense, terrible base running, you name it, the Sox did it.

It's really too damn depressing to think about.

Ryan is down in Florida with his family this week, he just texted me to say that he's in Tampa Bay watching the Devil Rays take on the mighty Mariners of Seattle. If that isn't a rivalry that's bubbling over, then I don't know what is. Despite being the worst stadium in the league (now that Montreal's Olympic Stadium is long gone) I really want to see it. Why? Mainly to see just what a piece of crap it really is. I drove by it once (when I was vactioning with Reddish, Skaus, Erin and Julie) and it was lit up to look like an orange (it's Tropicana Park, after all). That was neat, but I have a feeling, that's the only cool thing about the place.

Well, that's it until Tuesday. Stay dry everyone.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Lobel and Neyer

I was going to write on Sunday night, but I had nothing to say. I sat down, I looked at the screen and I had zero. So, I didn't write. Well, it's Wednesday and I now have a lot to say.

First up, and update on the story that we spoke about last week, the Darby Conley/Bob Lobel/"Get Fuzzy" thing. Instead of just dropping the issue and letting it die it's natural death, Lobel has stupidly decided to press on, bringing a suit against "Get Fuzzy". Here is the article from Friday's Inside Track, a gossip column at the Boston Herald (they love this shit, especially when the Globe is involved):

Bob Lobel filed suit yesterday against ``Get Fuzzy'' cartoonist Darby Conley, his syndicate and the New Bedford Standard Times over a comic strip that alleged the longtime CBS4 sports guru was drunk on the air.

``During his entire 34-plus-year career, Lobel has never appeared on the air intoxicated or under the influence of alcohol,'' the suit states. ``The statement that Lobel is a drunk is false and is intended to injure him personally and professionally and was made at a time when it was common knowledge that Lobel was in negotiations with his employer for a contract renewal.''

Lobel's attorney, Harry Manion, said the cartoon appeared in 450 newspapers across the country but the suit names only the Standard Times because it's still Fuzzy whether every outlet ran it unedited. (The comic strip appeared in the Globe but Lobel's name was removed.)

Manion said the sportscaster ``loves his job'' and was ``really upset'' by the cartoon.

``This kind of thing has reared its head before because he's got such a breezy style on the air,'' Manion said. ``But he doesn't drink. He takes his job very seriously and was very upset about this.''

Manion said Lobel is looking for three things from the defendants: an admission that the comic strip was false, an apology and monetary damages - most of which he will donate to charity.

``So that something good can come out of this,'' Manion said.

A spokeswoman for the United Feature Syndicate, which reps the comic strip, said she was unaware of the suit and had no comment.

The strip, which ran May 13, featured a sports fan, his dog and cat watching TV with the dog asking, ``Is this sportscaster drunk?'' The fan replied: ``Lobel? He's like some TV outreach program or something.''

The reason why Conley - who lives in Carlisle - included a Boston broadcaster who would have little relevance outside New England in his nationally syndicated strip is Fuzzy.

First off, Harry Manion is one of the biggest frauds going around. I've heard him on WEEI talking about sport lawsuits and more often than not he's wrong, in either his interpretations of the law or his predictions on how big court cases are going to turn out.

But this statement of Lobel not drinking is the biggest crock of shit ever. It is a well known fact that Lobel likes to drink, and really, who gives a crap as long as it doesn't impact his job. The guy is way older than 21 and the last time I checked, an adult can have an adult beverage every now and then. Hell, I've seen Lobel on TV with a beer.

And who cares whether he "loves his job" or not? If I showed up to work shitfaced tomorrow would that be ok because I don't love my job? Of course not, this logic is specious at best.

Finally, I like how Manion thinks that Conley and WBZ-4 are in league to defame Lobel so that he won't get a contract. Does he really believe this? Can you see the scene:

WBZ-4 President: So Mr. Conley we have an agreement, you call Lobel a drunk and we won't have to pay him ever again!

Conley: Ok. How is this going to work again?

WBZ-4 Prez: Make up one of your comics, you know how everyone listens to comics ... do I have to remind you of the Yellow Kid?

Conley: From the 1890s?

WBZ-4 Prez: The very same. Your strip could be the next Yellow Kid. You can be synomous with lies and slander! You'll be a house-hold name!

Conley: Sounds great, what do I do!

The bottom line is this, yes Lobel was heavily dissed. Is it worth getting into a long, drawn out legal battle where your private life may be brought into the light? You know that Conley's attorneys are going to find people who will say that they've seen Lobel plastered all over the place. Is that something he'd want? I doubt it. I think he should have just let it go.

I finished another book this afternoon, it was called "Baseball Dynasties" and it's by Rob Neyer and Eddie Epstein. I'm going to pull a page from fellow SoSHer Chad Finn's blog and link a picture of the book before I get to my opinion on it.

I enjoy Rob Neyer, I think that he's one of the smartest baseball writers around and is able to blend stats with good writing and interesting anticdotes, sort of like Bill James. I had never heard of Epstein, but he seems ok too.

If I had to break it down into percentages, this book is about 60% stats, 40% anticdotes. I like the anticdotes better. The stats got boring, though I was intrigued by offensive winning percentage, which is the winning percentage if all of a team's players hit like the player and the team allowed an average number of runs.

Obviously in a book where the top 15 teams are named, there are going to be some really high OW%, most of them are Yankees (Babe Ruth, Lou Gherig of the 27 team and Mickey Mantle of the 1961 squad are among the highest of all time), but it also showed that most great teams have some real crappy players.

Surprisingly Epstein and Neyer come to the same conclusion on who the greatest team ever is. Yes, it's a Yankee team. Yes, it is a team before the 40s. But it's not the 27 Yanks. It's the '39 team.

The one major problem I have with this book is that it's really New York centric. Of the 15 teams, eight are from New York (five Yanks, and one Dodgers, Giants and Mets a piece). I know they have great teams, but there are a few that can be taken out.

Aside from that small complaint and that the stats can be a bit boring (you know what you're going to get with Neyer) I thought it was a pretty good book.

Either tomorrow or Friday, I will write another entry before I leave for Atlanta.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Comics the make me laugh, for one reason or another

Normally the old timey comics don't make me laugh, but this one sort of made me guffaw a bit, but not because of the punch line:

First off the very fact that this exterminator his ass way up in the air is completely bizarre. I mean, he's on all fours looking like a young Jenna Jameson with his mouth agape, eyes rolled into the back of his head. You know he's been in this position before. Artist George Gately may seem like he's conservative and shit, but he knows how to draw a power bottom.

Also, take a look at the expression of the dog catcher, Heathcliff and the two dogs in the kennel. They're all like, "What the fuck is this guy doing?" Obviously, they've never been a party to any shenanigans quite like this. And where is the dog catcher's hands? Jammed into his pants! Gately is a sick freak.

And don't tell me that they're staring at the mouse hole in the wall, because they're not. Follow their sight lines, all four point directly to this guy's butt.

Aside from its obvious homoerotic overtones, another thing about panel that makes me laugh a bit is, what the hell is Heathcliff doing at a dog pound? I've seen both versions of the Heathcliff cartoon and used to devour the cat's books when I was a kid, so I know that he's a bad ass, but this is insane.

Cats and dogs are mortal enemies, like good taste and Britney Spears (BTW, if you haven't seen her reality show, you are missing one of the greatest trainwrecks of modern times), but this type of behavior on Heathcliff's part makes no sense. What's he doing there? Is he shoving his freedom in the faces of the imprisoned dogs? Is he trying to bust one out? Is it visiting day?

It seems that Gately (or whomever is drawing the strip now a days, it says Gallagher in the lower left hand corner) had an idea for a joke, drew it and then remembered that the strip is called "Heathcliff" not "Homo-Erotic Canine Caged Heat" and through our hero in the corner.

In any event, I got a chuckle from this strip. Maybe I'll start reading Heathcliff again.

Here's one that got the artist in a bit of trouble:

Ok. I got that off of SoSH, here is what is on the "official site":

Slightly different, eh? You'll notice that both strips are labeled 5/13/05.

First some background on Darby Conley (the writer/artist of "Get Fuzzy), first off, I think this guy is really talented. I think his wit is normally dry and sublime. A lot of people don't get the strip because they feel it's a "Garfield" rip off with a smart ass cat, a beat-down owner and a dumb dog. It's better than that though. While the characters in Garfield are about as real as a sold-out Phil Collins show, the characters in GF have depth and pathos.

Now to the subject of the strip, Conley lives in Boston, in fact near Fenway. In Boston, there is a sportscaster named Bob Lobel who is legendary for imbibing a few cocktails after work. During the last few months, many folks are swearing that Lobel is showing signs of starting happy hour during his broadcasts. These same people swear that a red nose, slurred speech, incoherent thoughts are becoming the norm on Channels 38 and 4.

Honestly, I have no idea, but that's what the buzz (no pun intended) is around town. Conley, being a local guy, has taken notice of this and has drawn it in his strip. It was published last Friday, and while a sanitized version appeared in the Boston Globe, the more sensational version appeared elsewhere.

I have to say that I was pretty shocked when I read it, that is quite a slap in the face to Lobel. Being publicly Pearl Harbored by being called a booze bag by someone who, I assume doesn't know him, is a pretty harsh thing to read while your sitting at your kitchen table enjoying your first Irish coffee of the day. (Ok, that was sort of a dick thing to say, but that was a softball.)

Why did Conley do it? I don't know. There are probably six (maybe seven) states of readers who would even get the reference to this local celebrity and the rest of the country is probably wondering what the hell is going on (sort of like Heathcliff and the dogs in the previous review).

Even if everyone in the country was in on the joke, to my knowledge Lobel has never done anything concrete on television to definitely say he's an alcoholic. It's mostly just rumor and innuendo. This wasn't the brightest thing for Conley to do as it's pretty much a lose-lose situation, either your readers don't know what you're talking about or you pissed a Boston institution off.

And Lobel is plenty pissed off, he and his lawyer released a statement on Monday saying:

Channel 4's Bob Lobel, not at all pleased at being the subject of last Friday's nationally syndicated ''Get Fuzzy" comic strip about an allegedly inebriated sportscaster, isn't inclined to let the shot pass. Lobel's name was edited out of the version that ran in the Globe but it appeared in other publications. Asked yesterday if it might be better to ignore the reference, Lobel said, ''No. I'm not going to let it go. Enough's enough. At some point you have to draw a line in the sand. This is it." Lobel's attorney, Ken Fishkin, had a similar response. ''We consider this very serious," he said. ''No, we're not going to let it go."

This was from the Globe's media critic Bill Griffith. It sounds to me that they're going to really go after Conley on this one.

And while Conley is the point person to blame on this, what the hell happened to his editor? This never, ever should've gotten passed him. While libel is often a difficult thing to prove, I think that Lobel (that name sort of even looks like Libel, doesn't it?) has a case here. I will update when I hear more news.

BTW, my opinion is that I thought while in poor taste, the strip was pretty funny, because as Eddie Haskell once said, "Nothing is mean if it's funny enough."

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Random Thoughts and Tim Russert

This is shaping up to be a rare week where I'm probably going to do back-to-back posts. I'm not sure why, I just feel like it, I guess.

Monday night Aly and I trucked all the way up to Lowell to hear Tim Russert, the moderator of "Meet The Press" speak at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium. He was excellent. Unflappable, full of cool anecdotes and just all-around positive about this country and what can be accomplished.

After a steady diet of cynicism, angst and sarcasm, tt was refreshing to hear someone speak so positively about the future, and mean it. The good thing was is that he isn't a Polyanna about the future. He knows that it's going to take some work to return America to it's perch as number one in the business world, he feels that we've pretty much plateaued when it comes to the American workforce and education after fourth grade.

He mentioned that the United States is with the rest of the world when it comes to elementary education, but when the fourth grade hits, American students are falling behind the Europeans and the Japanese. The solution is simple and it starts with us, if we have children, we have to keep their noses to the grindstone and show them that we take responsibility for our actions. He wants us to be more like the folks from his parents' generations who had constantly pushed to make the next generation better.

And I agree with him. Baby boomers don't like to hear this, but there's is the first generation that really dropped the ball when it came to personal responsibility. The whole tune-in, turn-on and drop-out mantra of the late 60s was in stark contrast to the work hard, keep your head down and shut the fuck up attitude of previous generations. To me, it seemed that most of that generation was trapped in a state of arrested development (and not the good kind) where adulthood was put on hold for a number of years.

Is it any wonder that the hippies that had a drug problem grew up to become yuppies with an even bigger drug problem in the 80s? And while mom and dad were snorting lines, maxing out their credit cards on ridiculously shallow endeavors and trying to keep their needs fulfilled, what were their kids doing? Taking note. This is why there are so many me-first, spoiled kids in the world, not taking responsibility for their own actions. This is something that Russert says that we have to change.

Before I get angry emails from people telling me that I missed the entire point of the 60s and the Baby Boomers, I know that every one wasn't like that. But it seems as if the majority were, which has festered into the collective American psyche.

Am I a nose-to-the-grindstone type guy, truthfully, I'm not. Like most people, I'll take a day of fun over a day of toil any time, but my parents have instilled a strong work ethic in me that I hope to pass down to my kids.

The other thing that Russert spoke about was common sense and how it is not prevelent in Washington these days. In the weeks and months following 9/11, party lines were erased, everyone was an American. It didn't matter if you were a Republican or Democrat, from the North or the South, red state or blue state. We had a goal that we were all focused on.

Somewhere that goal was lost and after six months or so, it was back to the same old mud-slinging. Now we've come to the point that if the Republicans rewrite the rules in Congress regarding fillibustering for judicial appointees, the Democrats say it's going to be a long three years where nothing is going to get done. Russert says get it done. Get the party leaders into a room, have them roll up their sleeves and begin working on getting the Medicare problem solved, the judicial appointee conundrum fixed and work on implementing a solid exit strategy out of Iraq.

"We've done it before," he said. "There's no reason not to do it again."

And I believe him.

All of that writing of selfishness has sort of made me think on my own recent acts. Am I a selfish person? I don't mean do I take everything that I possibly grab ahold of or whether I'm charitable or not. I mean something a bit different, am I selfish with my time.

Ok, before you think that I'm on myself or something, I'm not. But at work, during lunch I like to be alone. All morning people are barraging me with emails and phone calls asking if something has been done or when something will be done, etc. And the afternoon is pretty much like that too. I know that from noon until about 1:00, I can chill out, read my book and enjoy my lunch at the beach or in a quiet restaurant.

But a friend of mine constantly asks me to have lunch with her. I've known her for a bit and while she's cool, she never keeps quiet. It's always yak, yak, yak. So it feels like that the time where I should be relaxing, I'm not. Consequently, I rarely go out with her. And to be honest, it's just not her. There used to be a few guys that I would regularly have lunch with. No more.

I find myself wanting to be by myself. I guess the question of selfishness is raised in whether I'm being a dick or not. I don't tell them straight out that I don't want to hang out with them, I usually make up some excuse (when I'm feeling like a huge passive agressive pussy) or I tell them a morsel of truth (that I want to eat alone today), but I always end up feeling sort of bad.

It probably all goes back to junior high school when I didn't have a lot of friends and was begging for anyone to hang out with me. When I got to high school and college, I had a lot more friends, but I still found it hard to say no to anything social. Now, I'm just more at peace with being by myself. Yet that constant nagging of the kid who had no friends is in the background telling me, "If you keep saying no, you're going to be left all alone forever."

I don't want to be all alone forever, just for an hour a day. No matter how rich, how successful, how popular or how anything we are, there is always that nagging voice in the back of our minds. We have to find a way to tell it to shut up.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Pretty good news

As I shook the cobwebs from an early afternoon semi-nap (I was home because of a hangover as a result of trying to drink my entire house on Thursday) I went to the computer to see if there was anything interesting going on in the world. Check this out:

Look about a quarter down the page

I was expecting FOX to sign on for a half-year, sort of like "this is your last chance, don't blow it" sort of thing. I was hoping for a year commitment and deep down I thought that they'd just can the show. And that's what I got, a full-year (despite reports, on the same site, yesterday that it was going to be a two-year deal ... weird.)

According to most reports I read, AD was teetering on the edge of being cancelled and that there were a lot of indications that despite public statements, FOX wanted to get rid of the show because of crappy ratings.

The one part of the story that I found interesting is "(FOX President Peter) Liguori, bless his perceptive little heart, has faith that the show will do well in a different time slot." I wonder where they'll put it? I think it would be suicide to put on after "American Idol" or before "24", but where? That's the million dollar question.

Last night I finished the "DaVinci Code" by Dan Brown. Really fun book. For the last two years, all I've heard is what a terrific book this is and how good the writing is, etc. I wasn't really buying into the hype and figured I'd read it when I get a chance. I'm glad I got the chance because for one of the few times, the hype was actually right.

I'm not going to really get into the plot too much because while it is a bit complex to explain without giving away spoilers, I will say that this is one of the few fiction books that really moves along at a pretty quick pace. The action moved and didn't leave you hanging.

Brown also did a fantastic job at keeping four seperate plots going and jumping from plot to plot without the reader getting too frustrated. This is in contrast to Richard Russo's "Empire Falls" which had two simultaneous plots where he would build one story line to a creshendo only to immediately switch to the other plot, leaving the reader frustrated and confused. Sort of like the literary version of blue balls.

In any event, the Catholic Church has been pretty pissed about this book, and I guess I can see why, but ultimately it is a work of fiction and if your belief is shaken by a few hundred pages of theory, speculation and secret societies, than chances are your belief wasn't very strong to begin with. That being said, the book does make some pretty interesting arguments and will inspire me to look at DaVinci paintings with a bit more of a critical eye.

By the way, art history teachers must be CURSING this book. Junior Robert Langdons and Sophie Neveus are probably littering their research papers with ham-fisted theories about DaVinci and other masters.

And from one master we go to another:

This is today's Marmaduke strip. Looks Brad Anderson has decided to steal a page from "Blondie" and do a ruined bath panel. I'm not really sure what the joke is in this strip. I guess you can say that the joke is either: "Marmaduke thinks he's people!" or "Once again Marm's feel is under such a tyranical rule, that these poor bastards can't even take a bath without the dog ruining it for them."

Personally, I think Anderson wants us to believe the former, but my cynical brain prefers the second interpretation. Look at Marmaduke's face, he is absolutely giddy that the sister, Barbara, is so pissed off that she can't even gather the strength to get Marmaduke out of the tub. She has to call her mom to do the dirty (Get that? That's irony, mofrackies) work.

Quick tangent, Marmaduke's family has a name: the Winslows. And each member of the Winslows have real first names, and they're not dad, mom, sister and brother. They are: (in the same order of oldest to yongest) Phil, Dottie, Barbara and Billy.

In any event there seems to be something more interesting in this panel, if you really feel like decontructing it. Marmaduke may not be the one to be blamed. First, let's look at her lament, "Mother! I want my bubble bath back."

The last line suggests that she had possession of the bath initially and that Marmaduke stole it from her. How did this happen? Barbara doesn't look wet, which could be suggested very simply with a bathrobe and a towel rapped around her head. In fact, she looks as if she was about to climb into the tub, but had to get something or use the toilet.

Perhaps Barbara was doing something and left the tub unattened and Marmaduke ambled by and saw the warm water and decided to hop in (which runs counter to his anti-bath stance that he has had since the birth of this strip). Why does he do it? Because he's a dick or because he feels that he's in need of a bath? I think the former.

While Barbara should have a lion's share of the blame, Marmaduke knew that he didn't draw this bath, someone else did. Jumping into the tub is akin to scoffing down the bake sale cupcakes or jumping on Phil's lap as he tries to watch the "big game".

Despite being a family of enablers, I believe that the Winslows are under the crushing paw of a meglomaniacal ruler. Marmaduke needs to be euthanized.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Two interesting things happened in the last 24 hours

The Blog has been getting a bit boring and is getting heavy on a lot of Byron-centric stuff. If you indulge me tonight, I'll write something a bit better tomorrow, something that isn't about me or Aly or a bunch of people you don't know.

First off, tonight I went to the Art Institute of New England. Not sure why, but I decided just swing by and see what was going on. I walked in hoping to get a couple of pamphlets and look the place over. An hour later, I'm seriously thinking of taking night courses.

I know what you might be thinking, and no, I wasn't talked into anything. As you know, the job I'm working at now is OK, but it doesn't really stimulate me. There are some interesting aspects, but I feel like a drone. I need something with a bit more creativity. That is where the Art Institute comes in.

I spoke to a guy by the name of Curt Karl, and despite my prejudices of people with two first names, he was really cool. Apparently, they don't get a lot of college graduates in there because after he read my application, he seemed to be pretty impressed. We talked for a bit, he was trying to get a handle of what the hell I was doing in there and I was doing my best to tell him what I wanted to do with my life.

He provided me with two options:

1. Take night courses and become very proficient in web design and digital graphic design. The end result would leave me as a certified designer.


2. Quit my job and pretty much become a full-time student for the next year and a half with the end result in me getting my Bachelor's degree in design.

With the wedding and other things coming up in the near future, option one is probably what I'd do. I can't take a year and a half off to be a student, as much as I'd love to, I just couldn't do it.

For the night classes, the price isn't too bad. And the time factor isn't too bad either, one night a week for 50 weeks. There are a few wrinkles though, the classes start in June, so if I'm going to do this, I have to do it now. The other is I'm nervous of the unknown.

Obviously I'm not wild about my job, but in my back pocket, I've always had this art thing sort of like a security blanket. If I take the leap and find out in a few years that I hate what I'm doing, what then? On the other hand, in two or three years if I'm still doing what I'm doing now, I will really hate it. So it comes downt to choosing the devil you know or the one that you don't.

Next week I have to give Curt a call. He wants Aly and I to come down and check the place out, answer any questions I have and really go over my career path. I am really excited about this opportunity, I really am. I don't know what I'm going to do and while that is scary, the unknown is usually like that.

The other thing that I wanted to write about is the guy that I bumped into yesterday as I was walking in Brookline Village. It was a really nice day yesterday, and on my way from the parking garage I guess I had a smile on my face because this guy just stopped me. He wasn't a bum, actually I thought he was just looking for directions, and he began this diatribe against Brookline. He wasn't violent or malicious in his actions, he had sort of a wry smile, but he was definitely disturbed about something.

"I just hate this place. The people here are evil. They're all witches. They give me dirty, witchy looks. Know what I mean? They're hypocrites. They're materialistic and shallow. This one kid, this one kid had shoes with no laces and he gave me this really mean, witchy look. Just looked me up and down. Evil look. I live in Boston and people are nice. Here, they're mean and witchy."

He went on like that for about five minutes. If I didn't have to take a piss so bad (and if he didn't have a weird growth on his lip) I could've listened to him all day. But he just railed on and on about Brookline, and though he might be right about some things, the words "evil" and "witchy" sort of stuck out. I don't understand what he meant by that.

The people of Brookline might be a lot of things, but witchy and evil aren't two words that I'd think of. Sheltered? Spoiled? A little egotistical? Sure. But the paranoia that this guy had of this town was more disturbing than anything else. Am I not seeing something in this town, he told me not to look for it, to feel it. This person, who by all accounts looked like a regular dude, albeit with dirty blonde shaggy hair and two days facial growth, was really freaked about something.

I hope that I see him again so I can find out what exactly it is. BTW, I didn't want to forget anything so I called myself up and left a message about the encounter.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Saturday and I don't have much to say

I don't have a particular theme today, so I'm just going to do what Bob Ryan or the CHB would do when they couldn't think of anything to write either: I'm cleaning out the drawer of the sports (and nonsports) mind.

* This week wasn't that great. I got zero sleep all week after going to the conference on Monday and Tuesday and Aly having to wake up early on Wednesday. Whenever Aly or I have to wake up early, I'm up literally once an hour until the alarm goes off. So not only do I have to get up early, I get zero sleep too. Sucks.

Consequently, by Thursday, I was wiped. Friday was even worse. Today, I spent most of the day searching for a new job, the commute to Marblehead is fucking killing me.

Oh yeah, that work problem I had on Sunday cleared up pretty nicely on Wednesday. All that worrying for nothing, I guess.

* I finished another book, "That Wasn't in my American History Book!", not a bad read. Basically it was a bunch of stuff that had been lost to popular history. Stuff like Betsy Ross didn't sew the first American flag. She didn't sew any flags except a flag for a ship. Also, General Patton once had an affair with his teenage neice.

One that I thought was pretty interesting was that George Washington's mother was a bitchy old shrew who never thought that George did anything right. All she did was brow beat him and drove him nuts. All in all, a quick read filled with trivia.

* The Sox are finally playing much better, even with Curt Schilling and David Wells out for about a month with various injuries. Matt Clement won his fourth last night, Bronson Arroyo is 4-0 and Tim Wakefield is 3-1, which is nothing short of miraculous.

The one problem is their hitting. David Ortiz is in a slump, Manny has been hot and cold, Bill Mueller, Kevin Millar, Mark Bellhorn and Edgar Renteria have simply not got it going either. When the offense begins rolling, then the American League is going to have some problems, but until then, the Sox are biding their time in second place.

Who are they behind? The Baltimore Orioles, who have jumped out of the gate just blowing everyone away. However, they aren't the biggest surprise in the junior circut. That would be the last-place New York Yankees. They are sucking big time, and to be honest, it's been fun. And they are only ahead of one other team (the Kansas City Royals, who have 1/17 of the payroll the Bombers have).

Like the New York Rangers showed us, money can't buy championships, apparently. Though I do think that the Yanks will be back, they really are too good of a team to be burried in May.

* Last night Aly and I, my mom (my dad is in Atlanta visiting his friend) and Roy and Jackie went to the Ballroom Veronique for our wedding dinner tasting. The food was awesome, especially the appetisers. The coconut shrimp, the lamb chops, and chicken and corn pancakes were the best. Especially the pancakes, they were like little hashbrowns.

They also had a chocolate fountain, which Aly loved. There was one at Stacy White's wedding last year and I thought Aly was going to shove her whole face in it. She was like that last night too. Fortunately, that didn't happen.

Ok. I'm done. I may go to a movie tonight and if so, I'll review it next week. Hopefully this week coming up will be less busy so I can blog more. I know you're all very excited about that.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

It's only Tuesday and We're All in the Same Gang

However it feels like Thursday.

Why? It's been a long couple of days. Sunday morning I decided to be proactive (gah, I hate that word) and go into work early so I could catch up on some work. Jumped in the car around 9:15 and made it to Marblehead at about 10 or so. Walked into the office and stopped at the door. I forgot my keypass. The stream of swears that came out of my mouth would make Tommy Lasorda blush. I got back in my car, drove back to Brookline and then turned around and came back to Marblehead.

A task that should have taken me 15 minutes, ended up taking almost two hours as I found more and more stuff that I needed to do. I also found out that a delivery that was supposed to go to an Orlando warehouse was in some sort of FedEx limbo until Wednesday. Since it was Sunday, FedEx wasn't open. I ended up calling them yesterday and they were complete dicks. They wouldn't give me any information, would not speculate on anything and generally were unresponsive about the situation and then hung up on me. I was able to get some answers from the hotel that the packages were supposed to go to, so while I am still a bit nervous, I am less so.

Monday morning I had to be in Manchester, NH by 7:00 am, which means I was up at 5:00 and out of the house by 5:45. I was working a New England Health Information Management conference. It didn't go too badly. Traffic was nil, the hotel was easy to find and the people putting on the conference were nice as hell. This is the part of my job that I enjoy, getting out and schmoozing with people. I don't think that I could be a full-time salesman, but doing it for a few days out of the year isn't that bad.

Today, I had to be in New Hampshire by 8:00 and the show was over at noon. That's not a bad day. I ended up going home after the confernece ended because I worked over 12 hours yesterday and worked a bit on Sunday. I guess I deserved some time off. Tomorrow should be interesting though, there is always drama and backed up emails when I come in after a few days out of the office. Plus, the in-limbo packages. By 11:00 tomorrow morning, I'll figure out whether I completely fucked myself or not. Fun.

On Friday afternoon, I was bored for about 15 minutes. On SoSH I came up with this post about the greatest All-Star collaboration ever, The West Coast Rap All Stars, who busted out "We're All In the Same Gang." This record was done to combat the gangland evils of the inner city of Los Angeles. It was a pretty good song, but listening to it now, it is sort of cheesy. The original post was shorter and just talked about the rappers, which will be interspliced with the lyrics from this seminal song.

(I'm King News and I come to you with the truth
The mean streets took six more lives overnight
all the result of gang-bang stupidity
By the way, you gangsters should know
one of your victims was a three year old girl
Well, you gang members, you still don't get it, do ya?)

I have never heard of King News before or since this song came out. His claim to fame, I guess was that was sort of like a newscaster who came on and set the stage. I like a song that begins with an editorial ... usually during the news, that comes at the end. Way after the weather, sports, and the human interest story. I'm glad that King News isn't regulated to the back of the song. Hell yeah.

(With your badself)

[King Tee]
It's straight up madness everywhere I look
Used to be a straight a student, now he's a crook
Robbin people just to smoke or shoot up
Used to have a crew cut, now he's a pooh-put
Dropped out of school and he joins the neighborhood gang
Hangin on the streets sellin caine
To his own people
Now when I say people I mean color
You a stupid muthaf...
I'm tryin to stress the fact that you're dumb
Get yourself presentable, son, and just come
Together, you better, cause pretty soon it's gonna be too late
A message from King Tee The Great

King Tee - This wouldn't be an early 90s rap song without a sample from Jame Brown. Not only does James Brown make an appearance, but he brings up Issac Hayes when he calls the listener a stupid "muthaf ...". With the way that he brought back a lot of the old guys, it's a wonder why he doesn't still have a carrer. He now sells bootleg t-shirts outside of San Jose Earthquake games using the name King's T's. Actually that's not true. Though I must say that the word "pooh-put" should be used more in the every day speaking.

[Body & Soul]
Sisters, since we are the mothers of this earth
It's time we start being good mothers from the birth
Of our children, no time for sleepin
Teach em to fight and win for the right reason
It's your time, it's your life, live it
Proud to be black, young and gifted
Lifted by the knowledge and takin the right route
Gang violence needs to be wiped out
A-l-m-i-g-h-ty C and E-z-i-r-e
We see the f-u-t-u-r-e
Should be a positive thang
Body & Soul and you, we're in the same gang

Body & Soul - Should've been renamed Down & Out. As bad as this rap is, here is the beginning of an interesting diachotomy in this song. The first four lines are telling the listeners to pick up the responsibility for themselves. As you will see, this line of reasoning does not last long in this song. BTW, there should be more spelling in rap these days. For some reason, it's completely disappeared from the landscape.

[Def Jef]
One and the same
Everyone came in the same chains
Caught with the same aim
Brain games and names changed
To protect the innocent by-stander
Lies, slander and the master-planner
Destroy the black male
Crack jail and semi-automatic
For static if the crack fails
So since we all talk the same slang
Stop killin, my brother, cause we're all from the same gang

Def Jef - The coolest voice on the record hasn't done a hell of a lot since then, as far as I know. I could be wrong though. He builds on Body and Soul's theme of "we're all in this together", however he gets muddled and out of focus in the last 2/3's of the stanza. Who this innocent bystander and why Def Jeff doesn't think he or she should be protected is beyond me.

CHORUS: Don't you know we've got to put our heads together?
Make the change cause we're all in the same gang

Michel'le - She was Dre's high-voiced girlfriend, which is how she got on this record in the first place. Last seen at in a Watts Dairy Queen, no lie. Ahead of it's time by a few years, the song used to bridge one part of the song to another makes a rare appearance. She's a trend setter.

Now as a youth I used to get my bang on
And on the ave get my part-time slang on
Upon a time for me was no joke though
They knew I was crazy, so they labelled me Loco
Khakis creased, golf hat, feelin sporty
Low ridin and tossin up a forty
Thinkin in my mind that no one could handle us
The downest brothers ever touched Los Angeles
I found life was much more suitable
Cause I'm the brother that makes black so beautiful
I ain't slippin or down with a head trip
I'm talkin to all the Bloods and all the Crips
Throw down your rag and get on the right track, man
It's time to fight, unite and be a black man
Tone-Loc is on a positive change
Cause remember, we're all in the same gang

Tone-Loc - Movie roles and cartoon voices is what this former street hustler gets now a days. Not a bad way to make cash and increase street cred. The best part of this rap is that he talks about himself for at least 80% of his lines, then he throws in "Yeah, get together. Do it to be like Tone!" If they really did it like Tone, they'd sell drugs, make a record, get famous and rich. Easy equation.

[Above The Law]
Bein the pimps that we are
We're here to speak on a situation that has gone too far
Here at home in the ghettos of LA
Where a young black brother's not promised to see the next day
Cause we used to clock on the streets before we made beats
But fools just lay and prey on the weak
It don't depend on the color of a rag
Cause if you got what they want you know they gonna take what you have
Cause violence don't only revolve from drugs and thugs
And gangs that bang
Most times it's a political thang
Yeah, a couple of spots'll get popped
And if the government wanted to freeze it it could all get stopped
But they don't because they want it like that
Because the system been set up to hold us back

Yeah, Above The Law means that we can do whatever
So why don't we stick together?
(You got it)

Above The Law - NWA proteges whose first album was pretty good and then fell on tough times and has since broken up, reunited and broken up. While above the law, they ain't above the drama. Here is where the song comes untangled from a "take responsiblity, do-it-yourself" jam to "it's the government's fault" whine. Read the bolded parts, that sounds pretty preposterous and gives the audience an excuse to continue fighting. They also go the Tone Loc route by bragging how they used to do the same thing that the listeners do, but decided to rap instead (like signing a recording contract worth millions of dollars is simply a choice.)

Ice-T rippin the microphone the way I do
Listen close, my brothers, cause I'm talkin to you
The problem is we got a suicidal lifestyle
Cause 90 percent of us are livin foul and wild
I say job, you say ([Hen-G:] bad joke
I rather jack another brother, watch the gun smoke)
Livin in the fast lane flippin like you're insane
You won't stop until your blood runs down the street drain
I got an idea, give me a minute
And if it makes sense, then get with it
What if we could take our enemies, feed em poison
Undereducate their girls and boys and
Split em up, make em fight one another
Better yet, make em kill for a color
All my brothers need to know one thing
No matter what you think, we're all in the same gang

Ice-T - He's on a Law and Order series now, no one else has that kind of clout on Friday nights. But back in 1990, he was angling for a spot on "Unexplained Mysteries" with his government conspiracy picking up where ATL left off. While I wouldn't put anything past our government sometimes, I honestly doubt that a bunch of middle-aged white dudes got together and thought up the whole gang war thing as a way to eradicate the earth of black people. That is one of the most preposeterous things ever said.

[Dr. Dre & MC Ren]
Yo, we're not here to preach because we're not ministers
We're tellin like it is cause Ren and Dre is like sinister
Reality speaks for itself when it's spoken
A basehead cluck can't blame nobody for smokin
Yo, bullets flyin, mothers cryin, brothers dyin
Lyin in the streets, that's why we're tryin
To stop it from fallin apart and goin to waste
And keepin a smile off a white face
N.W.A never preachin, just teachin
The knowledge of the streets to each and
All that don't understand, that's why we came
To let you know that we're all in the same gang

Dr. Dre & MC Ren - Taken together, they've done the most in the decade and a half since this record was release, with Dre far outshining anyone in this project. He still keeps doing the thing he does. MC Ren once released "Kizz My Black Azz" and that's gotta count for something. This really isn't much of a rap and is a precurser for the inanity that is EFIL4ZAGGIN. Ice Cube was such a great writer that they became just shadows of themselves. One thing that bugged me about this though is that NWA was supposed to be "the most dangerous band on Earth" and they weren't supposed to give a shit about anything, yet they are trying to increase the peace. That doesn't jive with their reputations. I wonder if it suffered because of this?

[JJ Fad]
The J double, F, the a, the d, that is
And if you want the solution to the quiz
What's black in black, yo, and kills another?
An ignorant sucker that isn't labelled as a brother
But another
So now it's time we evolve
And get together and solve it
Cause the world is revolvin
Around a terrible situation
One will kill another for a reputation
So it's time we stop and realize that we're all the same
Yo Dre, tell em (We're all in the same gang)

JJ Fad - S stands for Super, U stands for Unique, the P stands for perfection and you know that they ain't no freaks. The E stands for energy, the R is for Rap, if you see them bagging at the 'hood Walmart, tell them to come right back. That line, which I probably killed is from their hit "Supersonic". As dumb as I thought that this band was, they did have a weird voice and styling that sort of gets in your head. Plus the riddle, "What's black in black and kills another?" is one that would have the Sphinx scratching its head. An aside, I thought that they were advocating violence against gay people because I misunderstood the second line as "And if you want target practice, just shoot for the queers." Sadly, I am not making that up.

[Young MC]
Brothers killin other brothers
I thought the idea was to love one another?
Open up the paper to one more death
If y'all keep this up then there'll be no one left
I try my best to set an example
Sayin hype lyrics over hip-hop samples
Not just a bragger to boast but to inform
Cause we're livin in the calm before the storm
You see, I believe that the children are the future
But what's it all about if in the future they shoot ya?
We're all human beings, if we're cut we'll bleed
And I want to see all young people succeed
Do 9 to 5, not 5 to 10
Just go to work and not the state pen
Cause you live better when you're out there free
And that's comin straight to ya from the Young MC

Young MC - He's getting Old Navy money now! Yee haw! He Busted a Move past the Principal's Office and into thousands. Good for Marvin Young. The one thing is that Young MC must've done well in school because he stuck to the original theme of the song.

[Digital Underground]
I'm in a rage
Oh yeah? Yo, why is that g?
Other races, they say we act like rats in a cage
I tried to argue, but check it, every night in the news
We prove them suckers right and I got the blues
Get busy, Humpy
The red, the white, the blue and
The blue and the red
For Clips and Bloods
The white for who's got you doin
Time bustin caps on one another
The Underground's down for peace among brothers
Kill a black man?
Yo, what are you retarded?
Tell em, Hump
Yo, do you work for the Klan?
Do what you like
Unless you like gangbangin
Let's see how many brothers leave us hangin

Digital Underground - Since "WAITSG", their biggest hit, "The Humpty Dance", is a staple at weddings, let's see Dr. Dre match that. Also, they gave rise to Tupac, though I doubt that he was in the area for the recording of this song. Damn Shock G and Humpty Hump hog every mic within a 50-mile radius. Jerks. This is easily my favorite part of the song, even though he's a novelty, Humpty Hump has a cool voice. It's different. Like Young MC, they stuck to the theme as well. Good for them.

[Oaktown's 3.4.7.]
The gang that should hang is the one that contains
The sisters and the brothers who are all in the same frame of mind
Now listen, get loose, it's unity time
Yeah, yeah
Peace is a presence that we all need
The future's in our hands, in word and deed
I'm Terrible T and I'm Sweet LD
We're 3.5.7. totally

Oaktown's 3.5.7. - I get that they're from Oakland, but why did they go with the odd name. What the hell does 3.5.7 mean? Maybe they're looking for the answer with Robert Stack. Alright! Two "Unsolved Mysteries" jokes in one entry! The shortest verse goes to the crappiest group. They were MC Hammer's back up girls. This was supposed to be their debut. Ironically, they're leading off in front of the Hammer, who was the most popular rapper at the time. In baseball terms, this would be like Wayne Housie batting in front of Manny Ramirez for a year and then wondering why Manny had a total of 10 RBIs.

[MC Hammer]
Kickin on the ave 'bout a quarter to 9
All the homies gettin blind in an eight ball line
Now on this tip they started runnin at the lip
Jumped in their deuce and took a little trip
Hit the block about 12 on the tick
The windows went down and the nines went click
People started yellin, bodies started bailin
Bullets cold flyin sendin some to hell and
It's gotta stop, we don't need all the violence
Peace in the hood and a moment of silence
We got together not for ego or fame
We got involved cause we're all in the same gang

MC Hammer - He's sort of a nostalgic touchstone now. People look back, see the genie pants, watch the Behind the Music and Surreal Life stuff and remember a much simpler time. People are happy when the Hammer is mentioned. And that's true in the early 90s, Hammer had so little of an ego, he was the second-to-last guy rapping, even though he probably should've been the last one. Usually the last guy mentioned is the star. His rap is filled with lame imagery, but that's Hammer. You either like it or you hate it.

Last but not least, yo, Eazy's no sell-out
And if you can't hang in the streets, then get the hell out
I'm not tryin to tell ya what to do
You have your own freedom of choice who to listen to
You knew good from bad, fair from foul, right from wrong
Now your mother's singing that sad song
(My baby ain't never hurt nobody!)
But he still got smoked at Bébé's party
But you're not the first or the last
You're nothin but a short story from the past
You're dead now, not number one but a zero
Take notes from Eazy-E, the violent hero

Eazy-E - While dead, he posthumously still gets most of the credit for starting the gangster rap craze that still runs through the veins of today's teens. I wonder what he'd be up to if alive. I can guarantee that he wouldn't do this shit again, he seems apologetic through his entire verse and pretty much summed up the confusion of the song by utlimately telling people that they can do whatever the hell that they wanted to do, he isn't going to tell them. Sort of ending the song on a weak note. Ten out of the 15 biggest California rappers just preached nonviolence and Eazy just says, "Eh, do what you want to do, I don't care." The one question that I wish was answered was who is Bebe? Was he the guy who had Bebe's kids? What kind of kid's party ends in death? Dammit, I wish Eazy was alive so I could ask him.

BTW, this is how I figured the ladder of success would look for these dudes since the song was released all those years ago:

1. Dr. Dre & MC Ren
2. Ice-T
3. Eazy-E
4. Tone-Loc
5. MC Hammer
6. Digital Underground
7. Young MC
8. Def Jeff
9. Above The Law
10. Michel'le
11. JJ Fad
12. King Tee
13. King News
14. Body & Soul
15. Oaktown 3.5.7.

I dare you to say I'm wrong.